Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Winona, Part VI: Hotel humor January 14, 2016

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Sign in Winona hotel, 392

 

IS THIS WARNING COMMON in hotels? Because I don’t stay in hotels all that often—maybe once a year—I’m uncertain.

Apparently theft is a problem at this particular Winona hotel, although I cannot imagine why anyone would steal any of the items on the list.

There’s a Target right next door with comparable or lower prices.

© Copyright 2016 Minnesota Prairie Roots

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The Inn opens in historic building at Shattuck-St. Mary’s December 17, 2014

An arch frames Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Faribault, Minnesota.

An arch frames Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

FOR SOME FORTY YEARS the oldest building on the campus of Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a prestigious private college prep school on Faribault’s east side, stood empty.

BUILT: The original part of the building was constructed in 1871 as the library for Seabury Divinity School. When the school relocated, the building was sold to Shattuck School and a small wing was added to the east. The building became Phelps Cottage, serving as a boys' dormitory. Photo courtesy of Shattuck-St. Mary's School.

YESTERDAY: The original part of this building was constructed in 1871 as the library for Seabury Divinity School. When the divinity school relocated, the building was sold to Shattuck School and a small wing was added to the east. The building became Phelps Cottage, serving as a boys’ dormitory. Photo courtesy of Shattuck-St. Mary’s School.

The Inn at Shattuck St. Mary's, a conference/retreat center and hotel, opened on Friday.

TODAY: The Inn at Shattuck St. Mary’s, a conference/retreat center, banquet/reception facility and hotel, opened on Friday.

But, on Friday, the stunning stone and stuccoed building, with a section dating back to 1871 and edging a wooded ravine, opened to the public as The Inn at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

The front desk and lobby presents an inviting welcome.

The front desk and lobby present an inviting welcome.

Saturday afternoon I toured The Inn during the school’s annual Campus Christmas Walk and spoke briefly with David Connelly (former manager of an Owatonna restaurant), who’s genuinely excited to take on the challenge of managing what he terms “a historically modern retreat get-away.”

One of several guest rooms open during the public tour.

One of several guest rooms, with modern, clean lines, open during the public tour

That seems an accurate description for this one-time library, then boys’ dormitory and infirmary now transformed via renovation and an approximate 10,000 square foot addition into a complex with 12 guest rooms, meeting/conference rooms and banquet/reception space. The Inn includes a full catering kitchen. It also serves as a retreat center for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, which partnered with Shattuck on the project.

Old flows into new as shown here at The Inn entry.

Old flows into new as shown here at The Inn entry.

From the exterior, The Inn, vacated in the early 1970s (except for feral cats), presents a timeless European style that fits this aged campus. Arched windows and steep, peaked roofs and stone prevail.

Detailed close-up of the old portion of the building flowing into new.

Detailed close-up of the oldest portion of the building.

In the early 1920s, a wing was enlarged and covered with stucco. It became the Phelps Infirmary. The infirmary opened just in time for an outbreak of scarlet fever. Photo courtesy of Shattuck-St. Mary's School.

In the early 1920s, a wing was enlarged and covered with stucco. It became the Phelps Infirmary. The infirmary opened just in time for an outbreak of scarlet fever. It remained open into the early 1970s. Phelps was last used in 2006 as a Halloween haunted house. Photo courtesy of Shattuck-St. Mary’s School.

It’s a beautiful structure which seamlessly blends old with new, as it should given the oldest section is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Church style windows add Old World charm to this guest room in the old part of The Inn.

Church style windows add Old World charm to this guest room in the oldest part of The Inn.

The original staircase.

The original staircase.

The breakfast area, just off a conference room and the lobby.

The breakfast area, just off a conference room and the lobby, has a definitive modern feel.

Inside you will find, as Manager Connelly says, a thoroughly modern facility with all of the amenities you would expect. Touches of the past remain, though, in sections of exposed stone, in those arched windows and in the original stairway from main to second floor, although I suspect that the wood was not painted white back in the day.

A maze of hallways, some featuring stone, lead to guest rooms.

A maze of hallways, some featuring stone, lead to guest rooms.

Hallways wind to guest rooms in a deliberate way that definitely makes this place feel more inn-like than hotel.

Decor throughout The Inn features earthy shades of green and brown.

Decor throughout The Inn features soothing earthy shades of green and brown.

Muted green and brown hues complement the natural setting of The Inn on the wooded west edge of the campus.

In a sectioned off meeting space, windows showcase the woods.

In a sectioned off meeting space, windows showcase the woods.

Banks of floor-to-ceiling windows in the meeting/reception spaces and a spacious woods-side deck and patio showcase the outdoors.

The opening of The Inn seems a smart move on Shattuck’s part. Many couples are married in the historic The Chapel of the Good Shepherd, just a short walk away. Parents from all over the world visit their children at the school. And top-notch hockey teams (think NHL feeder school) draw out-of-town fans to games.

The lobby and entry, simply and beautifully decorated for the holiday.

The lobby and entry, simply and beautifully decorated for the holidays.

On opening day Friday, The Inn guest rooms were three-fourths full, Manager Connelly says. And on Saturday, during the Campus Christmas Walk, visitors seemed duly impressed with the newest old addition to Faribault’s lodging and banquet/meeting facility options.

A touch of Christmas outside the front entry.

A touch of Christmas class outside the front entry.

FYI: Click here for more information on The Inn at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Room rates range from $110 – $150 Sunday – Thursday and from $140 – $180 on Fridays and Saturdays.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Vintage photos are courtesy of Shattuck-St. Mary’s School and are published here with permission.

 

You know you’re in rural Minnesota when… September 16, 2013

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…you pull into your hotel parking lot and park your vehicle across the chain length fence from a row of Demco gravity flow wagons.

Luverne, Minnesota's newest hotel, the GrandStay, 908 South Kniss Avenue.

Luverne, Minnesota’s newest hotel, the GrandStay, 908 South Kniss Avenue.

Join me this week for a series of stories from Luverne, a farming community located in the extreme southwestern corner of Minnesota, right next to South Dakota and Iowa. It’s a community worth visiting, as I will show you via photos and words.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Plans underway to repurpose an historic treatment center in Fergus Falls June 19, 2013

Daylight was fading as I snapped this photo of the anchor building on the former Fergus Falls State Hospital campus.

Daylight was fading as I snapped this photo of the anchor building on the former Fergus Falls State Hospital/Regional Treatment Center campus in mid May.

FROM THE EXTERIOR, the sprawling former Fergus Falls State Hospital/Regional Treatment Center presents an impressive and serene presence.

The historic buildings feature some incredible architecture.

The historic buildings feature some incredible architecture.

That marked my initial reaction upon viewing the towering, turreted and massive buildings on this west central Minnesota campus in mid May.

But I expect that the historical use of this place would tell a different story. In 1885, the State of Minnesota commissioned this as the Third State Asylum for the Mentally Ill. The word “asylum,” for me, evokes negativity. Eventually, the complex would also be home to those with developmental disabilities, chemical dependency issues and psychiatric illnesses.

One can only imagine the personal struggles and challenges faced within these walls. In those early days, I imagine treatment was not always the best or the most informed. I do not know this specific to the Fergus Falls center, only from my general knowledge of such large-scale public facilities of decades past.

Eventually, those who lived here were moved into smaller community-based facilities.

Wings connect to the main building.

Wings connect to the main building. These buildings are labeled as Kirkbride buildings after Pennsylvania psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride who believed in the role of environment in promoting healing among mentally ill individuals.

Today the City of Fergus Falls still owns most of this campus, purchased in 2007. And just last week, according to draft city council minutes published on the city’s website, the Fergus Falls City Council passed a resolution “authorizing the city to enter into a Letter of Intent with Historic Kirkbride LLC as a developer for the Regional Treatment Center, subject to financial disclosure…”  Historic Kirkbride’s estimated $41 million proposal calls for a 120-room first class hotel, several restaurants and 60 market rate apartments.

The planned development is expected to bring temporary construction jobs and an estimated 190 full and part-time positions to Fergus Falls.

Even the individual brick buildings impress.

Even the individual brick buildings impress.

The Kirkbride proposal seems an ambitious undertaking, but one worthy of this beautiful complex of architecturally pleasing buildings and an equally pleasing natural environment. Principals of the Kirkbride team bring experience to the Fergus Falls project with more than two dozen historic renovation projects completed over 33 years, according to presenter Ray Wiley of Georgia-based Historic Properties Inc.

Of course, as in all such projects involving historic buildings and lots of money and government entities and private investors, this isn’t a done deal. If all progresses as planned, though, the 120-room hotel, restaurants, apartments and more are projected to open in December 2015.

From the exterior, I can envision these detailed brick buildings as dorm rooms or housing for a retreat center or even as apartment units.

The complex includes a cluster of two-story brick buildings.

I expect plenty of skepticism exists over whether the planned project presents the best use of the property, will succeed, or will even get off the ground.

The Kirkbride proposal was one of two presented to the council last week. The other, from Twin Cities-based Colonade Design Group, proposed a wellness center serving those dealing with diabetes and obesity (and included a food and nutrition program); a hotel for participants; artisan flats and studios; services for returning veterans; condos; event space; greenhouses; and more.

Click here to read details of the two proposals, public input and more from the June 12 special city council meeting.

Based on my two visits to Fergus Falls in recent years, the Historic Kirkbride project certainly has the potential to succeed. For one, this Otter Tail County seat city sits along Interstate 94, an ideal location to catch travelers in need of a respite. It’s the last sizable town westbound motorists pass before reaching Fargo an hour away. That, though, is not enough.

The community possesses an artsy vibe with galleries and a theatre and historic buildings and arts events in a charming downtown that hugs the Otter Tail River. It’s a college town with Minnesota State Community and Technical College and is also a regional center of commerce and of healthcare.

Developers will need to market those strengths, the historical aspect of the former treatment center, and the natural scenic beauty of this lake region. That’s a given.

Future guests will need to envision Kirkbride’s hotel as a get-away because, otherwise, this will be just one more hotel (albeit an historic one classified as “first class”) in one more town along the interstate.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS on Historic Kirkbride’s plans for the former Fergus Falls State Hospital/Regional Treatment Center? Can something like this succeed in Fergus Falls?

The sun sets on this beautiful campus of trees and open space.

The sun sets on this beautiful campus.

FYI: The Fergus Falls complex is open for free public tours on Friday afternoons during the summer. Reservations are required. Phone Maxine and Gene Schmidt at (218) 736-5328. I was, unfortunately, not in Fergus Falls on a Friday afternoon and unaware then of the tours offered.

Click here to read Colliers International listing of the property.

Then click here to read information on the Minnesota Historical Society website.

And click here to find even more info.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling